School Buildings as a Teaching Tool


As teachers, administrators and facility managers prepare for students to return to school we wanted to share this article from our friends at on ways to think in, out and all around the box when it comes to engaging education lessons. provides information about trends and technology in the design, construction, and operation of facilities.

Did you know that a well-designed building can act as a teaching tool for students?

According to the Journal of Education and Practice, how we learn can have a direct effect on much of the lesson we retain. Research shows people generally remember:

  • 10% of what they READ
  • 20% of what they HEAR
  • 30% of what they SEE
  • 50% of what they HEAR and SEE
  • 70% of what they SAY
  • 90% of what they SAY as they DO a thing

When a school’s construction is studied in addition to lectures and reading materials, the benefit to students is far greater than lecture and reading alone would be. Environmental impact often plays a significant role in building design and operation. As a result, there are several features of a well-designed school that can be exploited in the name of learning.

Solar Panels

  • Solar panels on school property provide an opening for kids to learn first-hand about the science of solar energy. Kids can see up-close how solar panels convert the sun’s rays into energy that can be used to power the school.
  • If a school installs solar panels, the school will save on energy costs. In lower grades understanding the effects the savings have on the school’s energy expenditures could be a valuable math lesson. In upper grade levels the example could be used as an illustrative tool for an economics class.

Storm Water Collection

  • A great way to promote water conservation and learning is for the school to collect rainwater rather than letting it run off into the sewers. Not only could it provide the basis of an engaging science lesson, the water can be used to water plants and shrubs throughout the campus.
  • Storm water management has become of growing concern for many communities as runoff and its pollutants overwhelm storm systems and run into the nearest waterway. How individual actions and efforts effect the larger community would be fodder for an interesting discussion.

Energy Efficient Appliances

  • In addition to the monthly cost savings that come with lower energy use, the federal government gives tax breaks to facilities that use energy-efficient appliances. Students could be asked to evaluate the various elements (initial cost versus long term energy savings and potential rebates) to determine the best appliance choice for the school.
  • Students can gain real-world knowledge from a discussion about the difference between energy efficient appliances and other appliances. What they learn here could impact their buying decisions when they are living independently.

Green Roof

  • Students can be given the opportunity to participate in a class or after-school club that would encourage the growth of the garden and other greenery on the roof. This promotes teamwork, responsibility, and a better understanding of ecology – whether that’s a look at native plants or a discussion of nutrition and where their food comes from.
  • There is also a cost savings involved with this environmentally friendly, green implementation. According to, “green roofs help lengthen the life of the roof membrane underneath the green roof and the facility’s waterproofing.” The greenery protects the roof from severe temperature changes that can occur from season to season.

Behavior Modification

  • With behavior modification, students and staff have an awareness that environmental stewardship is a significant goal for the school. This can include using the stairs when an elevator is available. The school can provide recycling receptacles in the lunchroom to encourage kids to separate out the paper from the food waste when they are disposing of lunch materials. The school could eliminate vending machines. They often contain unhealthy food and drinks and they use energy to run.
  • If students are going to bring bottled water to school, encourage them to bring reusable bottles to limit waste as much as possible. Creating a habit out of this will have long-term value to the student and the environment.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the things a school can do to promote environmental consciousness by using the building as a teaching tool. In partnership with educators, facilities management personnel are well-positioned to play a significant role in students’ retention of facilities-based knowledge. Traditionally challenging subjects like science or math now have the potential to be understood and retained with the help of visual aids that are well within reach. Students will graduate with an understanding of the conventional subjects in addition to the education and skills to help preserve the environment.

Angela Steward is a Digital Audience Development Strategist with In her spare time, Angela develops websites that provide SEO value to grow the online presence for business owners.

Journal of Education and Practice. (2015). Impact of Visual Aids in Enhancing the Learning Process Case Research: District Dera Ghazi Khan. (Vol.6, No.19).

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